10 Steps to Managing A Business's Online Reputation

Posted by Tyler Shannon on January 21st, 2016

Now more than ever, understanding how your business or brand appears online can make the difference between success or failure in a competitive market. Ignoring your business’s internet presence is something that is seen all too often. Especially for businesses that believe their product or service is not transferable into online marketing. Sure, a business may choose not to maintain an online presence. That’s fine, if you’re not concerned about the way customers perceive your business. A company may argue online marketing is not part of their overall marketing strategy. If a business has nothing to do with online sales, what’s the point right? There are lots of points, actually.

Online reputation effects offline sales. All too often there exists the idea that customers and clients do not affect the business’s identity. A business’s online strategy is not just about sales, it’s not just about promotions or marketing. The truth is, customers can actually affect a business’s online identity more than the business itself, especially if there is no plan or strategy in place to moderate the online conversation.  

Whether your business deals in online or offline sales, the internet has become the primary method for conducting research for the purposes of making informed decisions on any purchase.  Managing your business’s online strategy is not just about selling a product or service. It never was, and it certainly is not now. Controlling customer and client feedback can make the difference between a positive or negative search result about your company. Just that small detail can make or break a business.

Reputation Diagram Displaying Stature Trust And Credibility

Taking control of your online reputation is not easy. It’s a labor intensive task, It’s a long-term strategy, but it’s a necessity to any business looking to expand their success in a new era of hyper-connected technology.

Your customers are becoming smarter. They’re becoming more connected through the use of smartphones, tablets, social networking, and review sites. In many cases, they’re shaping your business’s online identity without you knowing it. Here’s how you can take control back into your hands.

1. Take control of the search results around your business.

What happens if someone types your brand name into Google or Bing? Do you have control over the search results? Are negative review sites coming up? Competitor websites?

The first page of search results should always be monitored specifically for your branded terms. Your business name, slogans and trademarks are all search results which your business should own.

Develop a strategy around owning those search terms. For your online reputation, remain focused on those brand related terms. Develop content within your website that speaks to this. Create content on other websites that reinforces these terms. Implement a strategy for getting your product in blogs, news articles, or press releases. You own your business, so own your businesses search results.

2. Determine The Search Terms That Damage Your Business The Most

Identify the search terms that damage your businesses identity. Keep note of the other websites that come up when searching them. This is the core to your negative reputation online. Write these down, and develop a communication strategy around this.

Ensure all leaders in your business know what these search terms are. Identify the root cause of these negative search results. Are they customer complaints around your product? Are customers complaining about bad service?

Understanding these terms will lay out a clear road map on areas of improvement within your business.

3. Stop Searching Your Negative Search Queries (Or at least limit this practice considerably)

Every time a search is conducted, Google keeps track of the words used in that query. The more frequent those keywords are used, the more likely Google will include them in the auto-complete list. Google’s auto-complete search bar is designed to indicate the most frequent searches based on the keywords typed in. This can damage your brand.

Google Family EnergyOnly type in negative keywords unless absolutely necessary. Use discretion, and develop a list of negative keywords to avoid. Notify all employees to avoid searching for these terms.  Most importantly, identify why that term is being searched so frequently – and develop steps to resolve the root cause.

4. Limit Your Engagement on Negative Posts

Engaging in complaints or negative reviews online can simply add fuel to the fire. Especially if they come up in search results for your negative search queries. Of course, there are right ways and wrong ways to do everything.

Consider this – If that negative page is clicked, and engaged on, Google will see it as a relevant search result for your query. Google will also reindex the new content (your comment or reply to the review), and bump it up in search results based on the recency of the content. Google favors new, timely content. If you’re creating new content on negative posts, Google will keep that content in top search results as it is perceived as a relevant search result.

It is essential to avoid these posts or reviews as much as possible, unless you have a strategy in place to properly funnel and direct complains to an environment within your own control – like a complaints landing page on your website.

5. Build a Landing Page For Customer Feedback:

Building a section within your website that acts as a funnel to capture negative feedback from customers is a big step in owning your online reputation strategy. Not only can this serve as an excellent and highly relevant search result for key terms like “company name complaints”, it can also be used as the destination to direct people towards if negative comments are being posted elsewhere.

What’s more important, is ensuring the user is acknowledged for submitting feedback. Incentive and acknowledgement in negative feedback can make the difference between a controlled brand identity online, and one that is out of the hands of the business itself.

6. Direct users to the landing page when engaging with negative comments.

The only response to a negative complaint on a third-party site should be one that addresses the concerns of the user and drives them to a destination that allows them to directly contact the company they’re unhappy about. A landing page created for customer feedback is not just good for search results, but is a proactive tool for engaging in off-site complains as well.

Giving the user an outlet to vent their concerns directly to the company rather than a 3rd party community website can help keep the negative discussions about your brand under control. This is more true if your business creates a contest or incentive for users to provide customer feedback. There should always be an incentive to provide negative feedback.

7. Create Your Own Content That Speaks to Your Negative Search Queries

In addition to a page dedicated to collecting customer feedback, it’s extremely important to create content on your website that speaks to the negative search queries as well. This helps ensure that your own domain comes up in search results rather than third-party websites with negative content about your brand.

Create pages that address the most frequent negative complaints. Address them straight on and take control of the conversation. Explain why – explain the businesses side to the situation. Explain what the business is doing to correct it. Explain why the customer is important to your business.

Of course, don’t forget to link these pages to your customer feedback landing page too!

8. Regularly create positive or neutral content online for Google to Index
Creating content on your website to speak to negative search queries is critical – but it’s also important to create content outside of your website as well.

Take control of your local listings on Google, Bing, and Yahoo! Take control of your directory listings and review site listings. Have consistent brand messaging on these pages and appoint someone internally to manage the messaging and moderate reviews.

You can also gain value by regularly producing press releases about new product or service offerings. Donate to charity? Have a fund raiser? Publish it in a press release.

Hosting an event? write a press release. Submit the event to event listing websites. The more content, the better.

The content doesn’t even have to be positive either. As long as it’s neutral, it’s better than negative!

9. Setup AdWords ads around negative search queries.

In addition to the strategies outlined above, another important factor is ensuring you’re taking up the ad serving space in search results, too.

Google Rogers ComplaintsWhat ads do you see if someone types in negative searches about your company? Do you see your competitors? No ads at all? If the answer is either one of those, there’s opportunity to take control.

Setting up an AdWords or Bing Ad strategy designed to target negative search queries specifically, will help ensure users are being properly funneled to your complaints landing page on your website.

It’s important to note that this strategy is not designed on getting sales from the ads. You can measure conversions by the amount of customer feedback submissions. This can be your key performance metric in managing a negative reputation strategy through search advertising.

This strategy is not new – and can be seen with many major brands that experience frequent customer complaints.

10. Hire an Expert

Of course, proper management of your online identity can be a full-time job in itself. It’s important to appoint someone who has an understanding of the digital landscape and is trained in public relations, or business communication. After all – your reputation is in their hands!

If hiring an in-house expert is not an option, always consider hiring a digital agency or reputation management agency to do the work for you. This can often be achieved much more cost-effectively, as the cost of a salary is substantially higher than the cost of an agency doing the work for you.

Always do your research when hiring an expert to manage your online identity. Ask questions. Understand the approach and strategy, and make sure it connects with your business.

Don’t know where to start? Start your research on Google. Search for reputation management companies within your area. Or, feel free to reach out to Surround and we’ll provide you with a free assessment and quote.

Remember – your customers are smart, educated, and tech savvy whether you are or not. Have a strategy that speaks to them directly, and don’t ignore it!